The Argument For Looking Backwards In Performance Management

When we previously spoke about performance management traps, we didn’t discuss looking backwards, even though many in the industry would say it’s one for the list. Why? Because we personally think that looking backwards can be a very positive thing, provided it’s done in the correct manner.

Interested in learning more? Join us as we argue the case for looking at the past, and highlight an effective method to help you achieve this.

When it can be a trap

We don’t deny that looking backwards can be a trap – it all depends on how you approach it. See, if you only focus on what went well, rather than mistakes made, then that reflection loses its value. Whilst it’s important to know the positives, you can only learn so much from them. You need to take into account the negatives too. That’s where the real worth lies. 

And when it comes to putting this into practice, there’s a few different techniques you can try. The one we’re focusing on today is ‘hansei’.


The importance of hansei

Everyone in manufacturing has heard of ‘kaizen’, the Japanese term for continuous improvement. Yet it’s strange we didn’t also bring across ‘hansei’. This is the idea of self-reflection. It’s essential for continuous improvement, where you need to know what went well, and what didn’t.

For it to be successful, it all depends on the individual in question, for instance, the maturity of the person managing their team’s performance. This can start from the very beginning, as early as the interview process.

There shouldn’t be any comparisons here. You should make sure that you’re taking on that person because of their capabilities, rather than judging them against others. Unfortunately, this forms the crux of many performance management schemes, resulting in judgments on scales and use of words like ‘good’, ‘great’ and ‘exceptional’. These don’t actually manage performance accurately, and can lead to real tragedies in the workplace.

How to carry out hansei

To perform hansei correctly, you need to make sure you’re examining the past, and what exactly went wrong. Then you can think about how the situation could either be improved, or averted, in the future. You need to ensure someone is responsible for hansei. It should form part of your performance management process – whether it’s on completion of a project, or at specific review intervals during an employee’s term.

The following structure can be valuable for following hansei:

  1. Pinpoint the problem – There’s no such thing as flawless, so identify what the main issue is.
  2. Accept accountability – Make sure the individual holds themselves liable for what went wrong. From this, they can work on areas for improvement.
  3. Reflect on root causes – There could be more to the problem than meets the eye, so dig deep and reveal any belief systems, habits or assumptions that may be preventing success.
  4. Build an improvement plan – Action all the learnings, then you can stop the same problem from happening again.

Go further with The Manufacturing Institute
Looking backwards using the hansei method, and reflecting on your mistakes rather than just your successes, allows you to better manage performance. Our leadership development programme can also help with this. Plus you’ll learn the likes of lean manufacturing techniques and how to improve your communication. Find out more here. Or, if you have any questions, speak to our friendly team today.

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